Disinfection Byproducts in Rajasthan, India: Are Trihalomethanes a Sufficient Indicator of Disinfection Byproduct Exposure in Low-Income Countries?

Kirin E. Furst, Rachel M. Coyte, Margaret Wood, Avner Vengosh, William A. Mitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

The implementation of chlorine disinfection in low-income countries reduces the risk of waterborne illness but initiates exposure to disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Like high-income countries, low-income countries typically are adopting regulations focusing on trihalomethanes (THM4) as an indicator of overall DBP exposure. However, the use of impaired water sources can decouple the formation of THM4 from other DBP classes that are more potent toxins. The documentation of DBP species other than THM4 is rare in low-income countries, where water sources may be degraded by inadequate sanitation infrastructure and other uncontrolled wastewater discharges. We measured THM4 and 21 unregulated DBPs in tap waters and laboratory-treated source waters from two cities in northwestern India. The contribution of each DBP class to the cumulative toxicity was estimated by weighting each species by metrics of toxic potency; haloacetonitriles typically were the dominant contributor, while the contribution of THM4 was negligible. THM4 concentrations did not correlate with the total toxic potency-weighted DBP concentrations. Although THM4 rarely exceeded international guidelines, DBPs of greater toxicological concern were observed in high concentrations. The total toxic potency-weighted DBP concentrations in some waters were elevated compared to conventional drinking waters in high-income countries and more closely resembled chlorine-disinfected wastewater effluents. Artificial sweeteners confirmed widespread contamination of both surface and groundwaters by domestic sewage. The results suggest that THM4 may not be an adequate indicator of overall DBP exposure in impaired water supplies prevalent in some low-income nations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12007-12017
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume53
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry

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